Our River Cleaner (ORC)

Assisting community cleaning up the foreshores of the Parramatta River catchment.

Our River Cleaner (ORC)

Assisting community cleaning up the foreshores of the Parramatta River catchment.

Capacity to Deliver -

NSW LP 043-04

The issue

The health of the Parramatta River and catchment creeks is being put at risk due to litter pollution, especially the small difficult to remove litter such as shredded food wrappers, bottle tops, cigarette butts, balloons and polystyrene foam. While NSW Maritime Services patrols the river for litter and gathers a significant amount of large litter and debris, smaller pieces of litter are not possible to remove easily from the foreshores and from creeks.
Community volunteers who run  clean ups were actively seeking ways in which this could be made easier. Community members are also involved in litter prevention, as are the Greater Sydney Harbour catchment councils.

The solution

Our River Cleaner (ORC) is a vacuum cleaner used on farms to remove manure from stables. It also removes styrofoam and other small, lightweight items where this type of litter is difficult and time-consuming to remove by hand. It is a creative solution suggested by Riverkeeper Ambassador, Kellie Darley, a volunteer wanting to deal with the problem of small litter in foreshore areas with mangroves.

Launched on Clean Up Australia Day in March 2021 ORC was put to the test in three locations: 

  • the Parramatta River foreshore in George Kendall Riverside Park
  • the Toongabbie Clean Up site, removing litter from the nearby road and bridges sites and
  • Blaxland Riverside park, Sydney Olympic Park. The Operations Manager reviewed ORC's effectiveness in cleaning small littered items from grassy verges.

NSW Maritime Environmental Services has trialled the litter vacuum to remove rubbish from rocky riverbanks on the high tide mark and in areas that are difficult to access by boat. (See photo of ORC at boat ramps). 

The impact

ORC is successful in community settings in raising attention to the problem of small littered items.  ORC was of interest to those organisations charged with cleaning, but there are practical considerations to resolve. 


Positives: fast, easy collection on a variety of surfaces including concrete, grass and vegetated surfaces; and attracts attention from those not enviro minded.  Issues yet to be resolved: transportation; noise; lack of access to sites; and safe operating procedures for community volunteers.

Key facts

  • ORC found to be useful way of collecting small littered items in wet conditions.
  • A smaller 'backpack' version provide access in steeper locations.
  • The impact of the 'gadget' at community events has been to draw attention to the issues of small littered items, and to the need to pay attention to the problem of collection.

Project Partners